A recent Zogby poll revealed the following about the American people:
3/4 of Americans correctly identified two of Snow White's seven dwarfs
1/4 of American can name two Supreme Court Justices.
74 percent were familiar with the Three Stooges — Larry, Curly and Moe
42 percent could name the three branches of the U.S. government — judicial, executive and legislative
23 percent were able to identify "American Idol," Taylor Hicks.
11 percent could name the Supreme Court Justice confirmed in January 2006, Samuel Alito.
I'm reminded of the classic SNL sketch, "Common Knowledge" (alas, not on YouTube, though this is).
Of course, while some might see this as yet another sign of the apocalypse, I see it as an indication of an opportunity. Make political science as entertaining as Snow White, the Three Stooges, and American Idol, and maybe the numbers would be different.
My old history teacher in high school, Mr. Cady, used to spice up his lectures with sexual innuenedo ("The life of the medieval peasant was long and hard...much like the anatomy of many of your friends, Bethany.") and by making it relevant to his students' lives.
While doing so today would probably land him in jail, perhaps alternate methods would work. And I'll bet there's a huge business opportunity for someone to shake up the textbook industry with "History Idol."